13 February 2014


"TV gives everyone an image, but radio gives birth to a million images in a million brains." ~ Peggy Nooma

When I was 10, I skipped lunch many times and trekked back home from school for two full terms to save up my transport--and to kids out there please don't try this (haha). At the end of the second term I realized my dream. I had saved up seven hundred Naira which I needed to purchase my most desired toy; a 7-band world receiver radio. Why did I love a radio? I don't know, I just loved it, and I was willing to pay the price to get it--and I did.

On the night my dream came true; I shut my room door and carefully opened the carton. After twisting both knobs back and forth for a while, I finally caught a shortwave signal and guess whose voice I heard? Mr Owen Bennett Jones' presenting news hour on the BBC World Service. I was blown away by his diction and the music behind his words. I fell asleep that night listening to Owen, and that became a habit I carried on all through my days in secondary school.

For those who don't know him, Mr. Owen Bennett-Jones is a freelance British journalist and one of the hosts of News hour on BBC World Service. A graduate of the London School of Economics; he won the Sony Radio Gold Award in the news journalist of the year category in 2008, and the 'Commonwealth Journalist of the year' in 2009. Mr Owen's new book 'Target Britain' is a fiction book set amid the war on terror, and his experience from being a former BBC correspondent in various countries has shaped his career and made him an authority in discussing issues relating to the middle east and other global stories.

We had a stroll and we talked about the radio, his career, the future of Radio in this evolving 'social media age' and lots more. This is a special stroll not just because it's my first stroll in 2014, but also because I'm strolling with Journalism experience as old as me. Mr Owen started broadcasting for the BBC in the early 90s, around the same time I was born. So I consider it a rare privilege to have this conversation with him. Walk with us.

Ebenezar: it's a pleasure--and a dream come true--having this stroll with you Mr Owen, thank you.

Owen: Thanks very much for asking me to take a stroll with you.

Ebenezar: Can you remember your first ever contact with a radio? And what can you say about the relevance of a radio during your childhood days?

Owen: The only radio I ever listened to at school was the top twenty charts on a Sunday evening. But to be fair I didn’t watch any TV either! 

Ebenezar: Is the Radio still relevant today? Considering the internet/social media age we are presently in. 

Owen: Yes of course it is. TV news audiences are down. The newspapers are going bust. But radio keeps building it’s audiences. And it’s clear why. The radio is intimate and intelligent. In the most advanced markets people want more of it. Online news tends to be bland and shallow. And of course you cant read when you are cooking or driving.

Ebenezar: (haha) Sure you can't. What then can be done to keep the Radio as a source of information that will never go extinct?

Owen: The only thing to be done is ensure that radio people don’t loose heart. Media managers generally don’t understand why radio works – but if the audiences continue to build it should be fine.
Ebenezar: Now let's talk about you a bit, is being a Journalist and an International Radio presenter something you've wanted to be since childhood? Because from what I gathered, you attended the London School of Economics.
Owen: I did attend the London School of Economics, and left with no idea of what to do. After a postgraduate degree I tried the BBC – and even though I am now freelance I have been doing radio ever since. 

Ebenezar: Your voice is an auditory memory I carry on from my childhood; as I can recall many nights I listened to you present News Hour on BBC World Service. What can you say about your experience from working with the BBC?

Owen: My children have much the same feeling I fear. Well, I have enjoyed being a journalist. Lets put it like that.
Ebenezar: Now, you really have a robust knowledge of Pakistan. You contributed to Lonely Planet's guide on Pakistan, you've written many articles on Pakistan in several international publications, and just recently--in 2013--you wrote a book, Target Britain. Do you think Britain is really a target for extremists?
Owen: It clearly is – as are most Western countries. And we can only presume there will be more attacks.

Ebenezar: Okay, so in your own opinion, what can be done to bring peace with these extremists? What will stop all the suicide bombings and shootings; the innocent blood shed.

Owen: Now, as you know, BBC presenters cant have political opinions! But for some thoughts on the question you could look at this i wrote sometime ago.
Ebenezar: What will you do after you retire from Journalism? Perhaps Lecturing? Because in 2012 you were a visiting Ferris Professor of Journalism at Princeton University.

Owen: I’d really love to do more teaching you know. If anyone needs a lecturer then just get in touch...
Ebenezar: (haha) Okay, that's a free advert! What's your advice for anyone hoping to be a radio presenter someday?

Owen: Go for it. Most people want to work in TV so you can slip in the back door.
Ebenezar: Thank you so much once again for your time Mr Owen, I wish you success in all your projects.
Owen: Thank you, Ebenezar.
You can follow @OwenBennettJones to keep up with Owen and what he's up to. Or click here to read more about his new book.

There's no way we can talk about #WorldRadioDay without recognizing the Italian inventor who brought this wonderful technology to us. Mr. Gugliemo Marconi really gave us a voice in presenting the radio to us. The Radio will never go away.

The theme for World Radio Day this year is "Gender equality and women's empowerment in Radio" and the sub themes proposed by UNESCO include;

•Promoting safety of women radio journalists

•Eliminating stereotypes and promoting multidimensional portrayal in radio.
•Sensitizing radio station owners, executives, journalists and governments to develop gender-related policies and strategies for radio
•Building radio skills for Youth radio production, with a focus on girls as producers, hosts, reporters.

I hope all concerned act accordingly so that this year's World Radio Day wouldn't be a waste. Till my next stroll--on February 20th--when I'd be talking with newly wedded social Justice activist and former Miss Florida USA; Jessica Minhas, nice to be back on the stroll; Jesus loves you.

Ebenezar Wikina(@EbenezarWikina)

"There is good news for the city of Zion. Shout it loud as you can from the highest mountain. Don't be afraid to shout to the towns of Judah, "Your God is here!" (Isaiah 39v9, Contemporary English Version)  

                                                       THE     STROLL
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  1. Good one Ebenezar! Interesting read.
    @Owen Bennette Jones thanks also sharing your experience. Vivien Ngozika

  2. Nice one...the fact is that radio is still the closest to our hearts. This is moreso because we can listen and multitask...unlike TV that wants your eyes and ears or books/newspaper that want you eyes and hands. Its the least invasive of the media and most human too...

    Sad that I have thrown away all my radio sets from the past...my Nokia radio is my friend now


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